It would be an interesting turn of events.
Cruz backers have long celebrated his stance, going so far as to call him the “last man standing” on the hill of principle, refusing to put party over principle.
So why is there speculation about a sudden softening of his previous positions about the GOP nominee?
First, the senator told CNN that he was committed to defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton. Then, Cruz campaign advisor Jeff Roe told Bloomberg News that the senator likes what he’s seen from Trump lately and continues to think through his position.
“He thinks about it everyday,” Roe said.
Further fueling speculation, the Trump campaign on Wednesday issued a statement in support of Cruz’s major push to block President Obama from relinquishing U.S. control of the Internet in favor of an international consortium.
The statement from a Trump policy advisor didn’t mention Cruz specifically. But Internet policy isn’t something that Trump has discussed on the campaign trail, making it pretty clear that the press release was offered in support of the senator.
Anyone who has been following Cruz for the last few weeks should be aware of his ongoing fight in the Senate to prevent President Obama from handing over control of the internet to nations with less-than-high regard for the freedom of speech.
This is an important issue to him, at the moment. If Trump is willing to use his platform to speak out and bring attention that might otherwise help his efforts, then an acknowledgment of those efforts from Senator Cruz would not be out of character.
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier declined to comment on the level of any coordination between the Trump campaign and the senator’s office, nor on whether Cruz personally asked for the nominee’s attempt to insert this policy into a pending budget bill.
Frazier confirmed that Cruz might ultimately endorse Trump, but declined to elaborate.
There is some speculation that the announcement from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, that those candidates who have refused to back Trump would be penalized in some way by the party may have spooked the senator, who has ambitions beyond his 2018 reelection to the Senate.
Then again, how would folding now hurt his image as a principled fighter for the conservative movement?
“If Cruz were to ever do this, it would be imperative that he describe what changed in regard to Trump’s actions that allowed Cruz to finally ‘vote his conscience.’ And, that’s a hard case to make,” said Amanda Carpenter, a former Cruz aide who now works as a political analyst for CNN.
Steve Deace, an influential conservative talk radio host in Iowa who endorsed Cruz in the primary, said on Twitter that Cruz risks losing voters’ respect.
“…things that kill political brands…Stand tall on principle when it matters most, and then walk away from it for no good reason,” Deace said.
If an endorsement comes, there would have to be some firm, ideological payoff, in the way of policy or backing, that could be proven and adhered to by a candidate that has too often flipped and flopped his way over every platform he’s professed.
“There were thousands of people not in that arena who will be utterly disappointed that Cruz didn’t maintain his principled stand for conservatism,” said Rick Tyler, an MSNBC political analyst who served as a Cruz campaign spokesman before being let go because of his role in what was deemed an untrue attack on another candidate.
“Endorsing now for no reciprocation? He would just end up being a Trump Chump,” Tyler said.
And that has happened far too often for anyone to put any lasting trust in Donald Trump to be a man of his word.
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